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Spinal Anatomy - Part 3

Ligaments of the Spine

Without the spinal ligaments, the vertebrae wouldn’t be able to stay in place or remain connected together. Ligaments also add stability to the spine and grant protection of the discs themselves. There are three major ligaments of the spine:

  • Ligamentum Flavum
  • Anterior Longitudinal Ligament (ALL)
  • Posterior Longitudinal Ligament (PLL)

Running the length of the spinal column, from top to bottom, the Anterior Longitudinal Ligament and the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament prevent unwanted movement of the vertebral bones. The Ligamentum Flavum serves a diffrent purpose, attaching between the lamina of the individual vertebra. There is also the interspinous ligament, composed of thin and membranous sheets, which connect adjoining spinous processes of the vertebra within the spine.

The Spinal Cord

Around 18 inches long and the circumference of a human thumb, the spinal cord is housed inside the spinal canal, which helps to protect the spinal nerves from damage. The spinal cord begins at the brainstem and runs all the way down to the 1st lumbar vertebra. Near the tailbone, where the spinal cord ends, is a bundle of spinal nerves and spinal nerve rootlets called the “Cauda Equina”, which is Latin for “horse’s tail.” The name applies, as the bundle of nerves somewhat resembles a horse’s tail. Here, the spinal cord separates, and the nerves continue their pathway down to the legs and feet. The nerves contained in the Cauda Equina are:

  • The second through fifth lumbar nerve pairs
  • The first through fifth sacral nerve pairs
  • The Coccygeal nerve

Recognized as the information super-highway of the body, the spinal cord relays messages to the body from the brain, and vice versa. When there is an injury to a finger from touching a hot plate, nerves send a message of pain to the brain. Sometimes, special pathways called spinal reflexes enable the spinal cord to communicate to the body without transimitting the information to the brain. For instance, in telling the finger to immediately let go of the hot plate. The spinal reflexes are intended to quickly protect the body from harm or injury.

The nerve cells of the spinal cord are named the upper motor neurons. Lower motor neurons are the nerves which branch off of the spinal cord, down the back and neck. The nerves leave the spine via an empty space between each vertebrae, called the neuroforamen (or more simply the foramen), and continue to every part of the body.

The spinal cord is the groundwork for the sensory and motor function in the body. When there is injury to an area of the spinal cord, the body may lose function below the area of the injury:

  • Thoracid or lumbar injury could cause loss of function, sense, or movement in the legs and trunk
  • Neck or Cervical injury, however, could potentially result in loss of function, sense, or movement in the arms, legs and trunk

Dr. Badlani

Dr. Badlani is dedicated to educating our patients about their condition, to provide a complete understanding of the spine and how they can help heal themselves with exercise, therapy, and all, including minimally invasive, surgical and non-surgical options. Contact us today for a full evaluation if you are experiencing back pain or discomfort.